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Rise of the North

11th June 2014

Tony Hutchinson on a new city for the north...

The agglomeration of wealth, talent and influence in the South East corner of Britain is in part a factor of economics - access to Europe is critical as is the accumulation of social goods and the ability to access them efficiently.  Yet as every economic and political indicator demonstrates there is a growing divide between London and the rest of the country.

To create a counterbalance to the overwhelming strength of the Greater London megaopolis need more than pious intent, targets and token investment. Accepting that coal, steel and manufacturing will not provide the stable economic base required means that a careful consideration of how to create a counterweight to London is needed.

It is arguable that the replicable factors which influence the success of London are:

  • A dense web of transport connections which are reliable, affordable and connect people to places;
  • Consistent/cohesive governance with ability to plan over the medium to long term;
  • Quality of life and opportunities to broaden experiences.

If there is an intent to achieve this rebalancing, governance and transport are the crucial factors These could include:

  • A single elected body with a city manager on a five year term for the entire city region;
  • A high speed rail link from Manchester and Leeds direct to Lille that allows European rolling stock to use UK railways;
  • Reopening old transport links for turn up an go services that are clean, efficient and affordable;
  • Using renewable energy to power transport;
  • Enabling municipal enterprise to drive development/investment.

A city region on this scale has huge challenges, local identifies and loyalties, costs and technical obstacles.  However without such a plan the pressures in the South East will become less sustainable and the adverse impacts on social and economic inclusion, community cohesion and economic growth intolerable.

Tony Hutchinson is development director, housing and consultancy at Capita

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